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Politics

Maine’s Senators Say They Will Fully Consider an Obama Supreme Court Nominee

Maine’s U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are not joining calls by Congressional Republicans to block President Barack Obama’s choice to fill the now vacant seat on the Supreme Court.

In the days since Justice Antonin Scalia passed away, some members of the GOP have said that job should fall to the next president.

Independent Sen. Angus King issued a statement on the matter Tuesday night. In it King said “the President’s term is four years, not three years and one month,” and that to “delay the consideration of a nomination for almost a full year would be nothing more than the cynical politics that people in Maine and across the country are tired of.”

On Wednesday, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she fully expects Obama to make a nomination.

“There’ll be plenty of time for the president to propose a nominee if he chooses to do so, and is consistent with the Constitution,” she says. “And the Senate — if he does send up a nominee — should carry out our obligation to either consent or withhold consent.”

Collins says it’s not unusual for tensions to flare over Supreme Court nominees in election years. But professor Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean at University of California Irvine School of Law and a constitutional law expert — says it’s also not unusual for presidents to make nominations to the Supreme Court in election years.

“I’ve heard some in the media say that the president doesn’t have the power to fill a vacancy in an election year,” he says. “That’s, of course, silly. The Constitution has no limit.”

Over the entire course of American history, says Chemerinsky, presidents have made Supreme Court nominations 24 times.

“Sometimes that was with presidents who were seeking re-election,” he says. “Sometimes not. And in 21 of 24 instances the nominee has been confirmed by the Senate.”

According to the New York Times, all 46 Democratic senators say Obama should nominate a successor to Scalia. But 29 out of 54 Republican senators say the Senate should not confirm an Obama nominee. Republican senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz has threatened a filibuster over it.

While both of Maine’s senators say they will give any Obama nominee full consideration, Collins criticized the way both parties politicized Scalia’s death so quickly.

“I believe the appropriate thing to do after a distinguished public servant has died completely unexpectedly is to focus on that person's legacy, and his family, friends, and colleagues,” she says.

Scalia’s funeral is this Saturday.